What Is Intellectual Property and Why Should You Protect It?

Over the years, with the digitalization of nearly everything — from music and movies to books, newspapers, and magazines — you have probably heard the term “intellectual property” or “IP” mentioned countless times. As we all know, especially in the earlier stages of this digital age, it was a lot easier to steal products and even ideas in their digital forms. However, as time has passed, companies and their brands have sought to protect their intellectual properties through the legal system, safeguarding it from being copied, stolen, or otherwise plagiarized. Here is a brief overview of intellectual property and why you should protect it as a business owner.

Intellectual Property: Definition

In its simplest terms, intellectual property represents the intangible creations of the human mind. The word “intangible” here seems to challenge businesses since their entire existence, including bottom lines and team interactions — even their products or services, are based on tangible, physical things that exist in reality and derive financial benefit. However, creations of the intellect are just as valuable, if not more valuable, than physical, tangible objects. In fact, in many cases, physical creations are the manifestation of these intellectual properties or, at the least, the IP serves as an inspiration for something more tangible.

Types of Intellectual Properties

There are many IP types, but the four basics are:

  • Copyrights: Used to protect original creations, such as writing, music, movies, art; issued by the Copyright Office
  • Trademarks: Relevant to brand names, product names, and other specific titles, symbols, or designs for businesses and their offerings; issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Patents: Meant for the ideas that lead to the invention, manufacturing, and distribution of specific products; issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Trade Secrets: Methods, formulas, or any other non-physical vital information that can be used for economic gain

In addition, franchises might also be considered intellectual properties on their own.

Why Protect IP

There are many reasons to protect IP through the legal process, but some of the more compelling reasons include:

  • Loss of support for research and development to foster more original ideas (if businesses, artists, inventors have their ideas stolen, they stand to lose compensation for those ideas, making future idea development less enticing)
  • Less economic prosperity for those who develop the original ideas, thus making businesses less competitive in the marketplace
  • Consumer confusion caused by too many companies or people selling the same products, creations, brand names, etc.

Contact a DuPage County Intellectual Property Lawyer

If you or your business need to protect certain intellectual property or want to strengthen your brand by protecting more of its intangible assets, consider beginning the process of securing IP rights through a qualified Wheaton, IL business attorney. The skilled legal team at Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC can provide you with a variety of different types of business solutions to fit your needs. Call us today at 630-665-2500 to learn more by scheduling a confidential consultation.


3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Terminating an Employee

For many business owners, terminating an employee is something they hope they will not have to do. Unfortunately, letting employees go is just as much a part of being a business owner as hiring employees is. When an employer fires an employee, the employer must be careful to avoid creating an opportunity for the employee to sue.

Illinois is an “at-will employment” state, which means that a workers’ employment can be terminated for nearly any reason, including no reason at all. However, there are exceptions. For example, it is illegal to fire an employee on the basis of the employee’s age, race, national origin, and other characteristics protected by law. This creates a vast gray area when it comes to letting an employee go, and employers must make certain that the termination was handled in compliance with the law. There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of being sued, but avoiding these common mistakes can help business owners avoid litigation.

Mistake #1: Sloppy Recordkeeping

Sometimes, employers become overwhelmed with the demands of running a business, and they allow some duties to slip. One of these often-overlooked responsibilities is recordkeeping. For example, employers have the responsibility to track employee hours worked. When keeping track of the hours worked by employees is based on the “honor system” or is inadequately managed, employees can claim that they were not paid for the actual hours they worked.

Problems can also arise when a business fails to sufficiently document employee performance issues or instances of misconduct. Complete and accurate records of performance concerns and misbehavior could become extremely useful if an employee ever claims to have been terminated illegally.

Mistake #2: Divulging Sensitive Information

It is impossible to completely eliminate gossip in any group of people, including a team of employees. However, inappropriate discussions regarding an employee’s termination can become evidence in a discrimination lawsuit. Management and human resources should be cautious not to discuss the termination with employees who do not have a legitimate need to know.  Furthermore, business owners should be on the lookout for emails that reference terminated employees. These emails can be used as evidence in litigation. It is best to always write emails with the understanding that others may see them and to be as professional as possible.

Mistake #3: Inadequate Investigation

Serious problems can arise when an employer receives a complaint of discrimination or harassment and does not investigate it thoroughly. Employers should take all claims of misconduct seriously and take steps to determine the validity of the claim. A thorough investigation should include interviewing witnesses and preserving any evidence of the discrimination or harassment. One of the biggest mistakes an employer can make is not having clear, written anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures.

Wheaton Business Attorneys Helping Business Owners

The dedicated DuPage County business law attorneys at Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC have the experience and skill necessary to make sure your business operates within the boundaries of the law. If you have questions about terminating an employee, we can help you find the answers. Call 630-665-2500 for a confidential consultation today.





What Permits and Licenses Do I Need to Start a Business in Illinois?

IL business attorney, Illinois business lawyer, starting a business in ILWhen you decide to start a business, you will experience many challenges and important decisions early on, from securing funding, to attracting clients, to determining the type of business entity you should establish. As you go through the process, you should be sure not to overlook the importance of obtaining the permits and licenses your business will need to operate in compliance with the laws and regulations for your area. A business law attorney can help you identify the permits and licenses you will need and guide you through the process of getting them.

Common Business Permits and Licenses

Different permits and licenses are necessary depending on your business’s location, industry, and the products or services you provide. There are likely others that your business will need to pursue, but some of the most common examples include:

  • Building permits: When deciding on a location for your business, you may need to obtain a building permit for the new construction of a building or addition or the remodeling of an existing space. Specific building permit requirements can vary from county to county, but in general, you will need to ensure that your space meets health and safety requirements and that your type of business is acceptable for the location’s zoning requirements.
  • Sales tax permits: If your business will sell tangible products or certain kinds of services in Illinois, you will need to register through the Illinois Department of Revenue to obtain a sales tax permit. Your registration must include any location from which you will sell, and if you expect to have significant sales outside of Illinois, you may need to apply for a permit in other states as well.
  • Liquor licenses: If your business will sell, produce, or distribute alcoholic beverages, you will likely need to obtain liquor licenses with multiple entities. Alcohol sellers, such as restaurants, bars, and liquor stores, will need a local license for the municipality in which they are located, and alcohol producers and distributors will need a federal permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. All alcohol businesses in Illinois will also need to obtain a state license through the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

Contact a DuPage County Business Law Attorney

If you know that your new business will need any of these permits or licenses, or if you need help understanding and obtaining any additional licenses, The Illinois Law Office of Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC can assist you. We are committed to helping Illinois entrepreneurs achieve their business goals while maintaining appropriate legal standards. Contact a Wheaton business law attorney today at 630-665-2500.